|Our Really Big Adventure|
Waiting for the Truck in Ushuaia
We had planned to spend most of our time in South America on the Hot Rock Global Challenge rock climbing expedition. Hot Rock is a loosely affiliated and organised group of climbers circumnavigating the globe in a big red truck specifically converted for the job. We, along with the majority of its passengers, were joining it for just a fraction of its three-year journey.
One Week Before Truck Departure
Three Days before Truck Departure Date
As scheduled we changed onto a minibus in Rio Grande and soon we were off at breakneck speeds into the Tierra Del Fuego National park leaving behind a dust cloud a mile long. At last the scenery started to change and we were treated with breathtaking views of alpine rock. At one of the most beautiful spots the driver stopped to allow us to take photos, we presumed, but when we got out we found he wasnt concerned that we see the best of Argentina at all. We had a puncture.
Wheel replaced we continued uneventfully into Ushuaia. Walking around the town we found Ushuaia, contrary to everything we had been told, to be a lovely town full of friendly people.
We checked our email and still no mention of where we were to meet. I was really starting to get concerned at this stage and paranoid thoughts kept creeping into my head. Had the truck been delayed by weather? Were we meant to be meeting in a different town? Had the truck already left? In desperation I group emailed a list Stiggy had previously mailed, asking if anyone knew where we were meant to be meeting up. After getting something to eat still no-one had replied. Paranoia was starting to get to me after all our time in Asia I was now vaguely entertaining the idea that Hot Rock was just some kind of hugely elaborate scam. A quick search of the Internet produced remarkably little information for an expedition that was on the road for over a year. Surely it couldnt be a scam, I mean the brochures, the talk run by the Mountaineering Council of Ireland? By the time I went to sleep concern had turn to anxiety.
Two Days before Truck Departure Date
Another strange thing was that there was no sign of our friend from home, Phil. He had emailed us a few days previously to say that he was flying into Ushuaia on Friday. Yet on Saturday there was no sign of him in the town. We had asked around at the hostels if theyd seen a Big Red Climbing Truck or an Irish Guy that answers to the name of Phil, but no joy. Meanwhile Barbara, while I suspect secretly worried too, was all but openly laughing at my paranoia. By now I was checking my email every two hours and preparing to fork out a fortune to phone the Hot Rock number in the UK.
There was just a single email in my inbox from a guy called Colin. Myself, Dai and Nick are in town too, we are staying in the Rugby Club campsite, we will be in the Sheik Bar tomorrow night at 7 oclock, which is where we are meant to meet up with everyone else. Fantastic! There was more than just the two of us in town, but even this solid evidence didnt fully extinguish my doubt. Just because there were three other people were in town didnt mean it wasnt a scam, it could just mean that they scammed 5 people instead of 2. But still, even if it was scam it was reassuring to know we werent the only suckers.
Not willing to wait a minute longer I cajoled Barbara into taking a taxi out to the campsite to meet our fellow suckers. Soon we were face to face with Colin, Nick and Dai, who had all met by accident on the way to Ushuaia.. That night we visited the Sheik Bar but it was closed and looked derelict. This did not bode well. Hows this for a scam? Give us a stack of cash for a climbing trip and we will see you in the most southerly town in the world in a bar thats been closed for year. Not only did they have our cash they were probably laughing their asses off too.
So we went to the U! Bar for a couple of drinks to try piece together what little information we had between us. Facts were rare but vague rumours abounded. Nothing, however, could be confirmed. The best we could gather was that the fabled truck could not be shipped from South Africa to Ushuaia and had instead been shipped to Buenos Aires and was being driven down, at least a 4 day drive. That could explain why Phil was nowhere to be found. He had probably received a last minute communiqué, cancelled his flight and was now on the truck and unable to get to an Internet café unheard of for Phil. Just as we had settled on this theory, in walked Phil. He had indeed flown out of Buenos Aires on Friday as planned, but had only been able to get a flight half the way and had just spent the last 30 hours on buses. Not only did that bring our numbers up to six, but Phil had also spotted two Australian climbers on the bus, one of whom was apparently the truck physio. I went to bed that night feeling more confident than I had felt anytime over the previous 24 hours.
One day before Truck Departure
Supposed Truck Departure Date
It was about now that I really started to feel stupid for ever thinking that it might have been scam.